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Digital battle over sporting rights

Digital battle over sporting rights

Changes to the federal Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) would not resolve the dispute between sporting organisations and the media over the use of sports pictures and text on websites and other…

Changes to the federal Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) would not resolve the dispute between sporting organisations and the media over the use of sports pictures and text on websites and other digital media, lawyer Claude Harran from Kelly Hazell Quill told Lawyers Weekly on Thursday.

A senate inquiry into the reporting of sports news and emergence of digital media which is due to report in May has received a total of 36 submissions.

Sporting bodies have accused media organisations of abusing their rights to use pictures and television footage for their news coverage by on-selling images via the internet and mobile phones.

The AFL has argued for legislative changes to the Copyright Act to bring in restrictions on what audio-visual, photographic and audio content can be used by media organisations on digital platforms.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia submitted that the Act needed greater clarity and definition to accommodate the expansion from traditional to digital mediums.

Harran argued that a balance needed to be struck between commercial and public interest in reporting and broadcasting sporting events - but that it should be ultimately motivated by the public's interest in sport.

"Obtaining this balance is more appropriately achieved through establishing mutually agreed industry guidelines which have dispute resolution mechanisms and codes of practice in place that provide clear parameters for each of the relevant parties," he said.

Changing the Act to accommodate sporting organisations' requests would affect the traditional application of the statute and common law to print media, Harran said.

"By stipulating that news reporting for the purposes of the Copyright Act has a specific meaning does not resolve the issues surrounding duration, frequency [and] archiving of the images that the sporting organisations so fear," he said.

"The most appropriate manner to deal with the difficulties introduced by the advent of new media technology is to develop mutually agreed industry standards or a code of practice, thereby addressing all parties' interests in the matter."

Look out for Claude Harran's opinion piece on this issue in an upcoming issue of Lawyers Weekly.

- Sarah Sharples

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